Avoiding Liability Risks At Company Celebrations, Holiday Parties and Other Get-Togethers

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Whether to celebrate a company’s success or to spread holiday cheer, many companies throw parties for their employees throughout the year.  While a good way to build camaraderie, employers must not overlook the liability risks associated with these light-hearted events.

Any company party must be viewed as an extension of the work place, including ensuring that best practices are followed to avoid a wide array of potential liability.  Indeed, as the Seventh Circuit stated in Place v. Abbott Laboratories, 215 F.3d 803 (7th Cir. 2000), "[a]t the risk of playing the Grinch … we note that office Christmas parties … seem to be fertile ground for unwanted sexual overtures that lead to Title VII complaints."  Following are common issues arising during company parties, along with recommendations to avoid liability exposure:

Importantly, employers should also check to see if their company party is covered under any Employment Practices Liability Insurance or Comprehensive General Liability Insurance, as well as promptly investigate any complaints stemming from any alleged conduct occurring at a party.

Despite whatever best intentions a company has, and however innocuous it believes something to be, employers must be cautious that a night of cheer doesn't lead to headaches -- at least beyond those caused by a given beverage of choice.

For more information, please contact Alex Marks at (312) 840-7022 or amarks@burkelaw.com

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